Twinkling lights and hot chocolate. Santa Claus and cinnamon rolls. Cozy sweaters and tables weighed down by cookies and cakes.
Those are just some of the reasons I absolutely adore Christmas. Of course, I make it a point, especially with my kids, to focus on the nativity and sing carols and go to church and make shoe boxes filled with gifts for the underprivileged and, you know, put Christ back in Christmas.
But when I stop to think of that first Christmas, it’s so much more than goodwill toward man or the ceramic nativity set or the pillow embroidered with “Jesus is the reason for the season.” It was a toppling over of the world order from an unlikely power hub: an obscure stable in the little town of Bethlehem.
If there’s one thing that first Christmas was not, it’s tame. It was not a silent night where all was calm and all was bright. It was not about a cooing baby and a doting mother, seemingly unruffled by extensive travel and unassisted childbirth.
It was about the God of this universe breaking into the world He created — unwelcome, unheralded, and hunted down. It was about God subverting what was considered important and right and powerful.
Consider the timing of His advent. He didn’t plan on making an entrance when faith had reached a crescendo. In fact, the Bible says that though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to his own, and his own did not receive him. (John 1:10, 11)
He came without publicity or fanfare. He who had the angels bow before him, came in anonymity. He showed radical love by divesting himself of all power in a lowly stable as a helpless baby.
The circumstances of his birth, although romanticised by cards and songs and movies, were nothing short of stark and scary.
Mary, an unwed young woman, was found to be with child. His earthly father, Joseph, had to break the law in taking Mary as his wife. The God of all righteousness disrupted what was considered socially acceptable.
He came into a world which, literally, had no room for him. Doors were shut in the face of his parents. Even before his birth, he understood rejection and dead ends.
He was born in threatening times. He was being hunted down by an insane and insecure king.
As a baby, his family had to flee Bethlehem and live as refugees in Egypt. There was nothing comfortable or secure about his life. He knew what it was to be an outsider, a social outcast.
The announcement of his birth was not made to kings or noblemen, but to simple shepherds watching their flocks. He upended the status quo. The meek become powerful. The poor become rich. The last become first.
He toppled over the notions of what God in flesh “should” do. The world expected that a social code would be followed, there would be something celebratory in His birth, some pomp and splendour. But He followed an entirely different script.
That first Christmas, He startled us with His radical love. He confronted us with his gentle power. He shook the world order with his vulnerable entrance into it.
And at the core of it all He was born with one mission: to die so we may live.
The old Sunday School story of a baby born in Bethlehem should leave us astounded. Simply because it’s the greatest, most provocative, most vulnerable love story ever told.
Latest posts by Susan Narjala (see all)
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